The Burnside High School Symphonic Band is the more advanced of the two concert bands that Burnside offers its students. There is Junior Concert Band for years 9 and 10 only, and the Symphonic Band which is a non-auditioned ensemble of players from years 9 through to 13. Numbers range from year to year, but generally there are 55 to 70 players each year.The BHS Symphonic Band is a long standing ensemble at the school and has had several conductors over its history. For several years it has been conducted by Helen Renaud; however, in 2016 Chris Petch will be taking over this role while Helen is on study leave.
Entry to the band is voluntary, but the students are expected to maintain a commitment for the year once they sign up in February. As with all non-auditioned groups, there is an on-going issue of balancing the band. Many schools are familiar with the problems of an excess of small instruments (particularly flutes) and a deficit of larger instruments. The school tries to deal with this each year, by building these areas in the Junior Concert Band, to give a wide range of larger instruments being taught in the junior school, in the hopes of a flow-through to the more senior band.
BHS Symphonic Band performs at several events each year, including the Christchurch Concert Band Competition, where it has regularly won a gold award. There is a yearly camp for the students to attend and this includes sectional work with visiting instrumentalists as well as the regular conductor, and school tutors. In the past they have also travelled to Nelson to perform with the students of Nelson College and Nelson College for Girls, and to the WEBOConcert Band Festival in Wellington.
The band also is used as one of the practical ensembles for the Conducting and Leadership Programme at the school. Each year, one Year 13 Student, with a specialist area of woodwind, brass or percussion is assigned to the group to learn how to conduct in a practical setting. These students get many opportunities to take rehearsals under the guidance of their Mentor Conductor, and then they have to conduct at least two pieces in a public concert. It is both a nerve-racking and exciting event for them to be involved in, and has lead on to several students studying Conducting at tertiary level.
The goal of the BHS Symphonic Band is to promote great technique in woodwind, brass and percussion players, and to introduce the performers to the main-stays of the Concert Band repertoire, as well as to exciting new works that will inspire and challenge them.